by Sarah Lyons, contributing writer

As the whirlwind of the last few weeks of school fly by, I find myself ready for the long, unscheduled days of summer. Sleeping in, spending our afternoons poolside, and playing hide and seek until the fireflies come out. Realistically, my idea of carefree summer days come from my youth and not from the summers our own kids typically experience. Camps, playdates, and ball games fill up most of our calendars while any free time is consumed by parent-planned educational activities and crafts seen on social media. While these things aren’t bad, it can be a little daunting for parents due to the pressure to plan every minute of their child’s summer. 

I have declared this summer to be different. My kids will have the kind of summer I had as a child. One that is less scheduled and more free play, less video games and more outside time, and less parent-planned and more child-created. If, like me, you are tired of feeling pressure to entertain and educate your child every waking moment, use these tips to enjoy your summer, 1980s style.


Today we love our electronics. It is unlikely that many of us can make it more than a few hours without checking in with social media and responding to emails and texts. Our kids are no different, but limits should be set on screen time to allow kids to experience outdoor play, the joy of curling up with a good book, and allowed time to use their own imaginations. 1980s kids didn’t have apps, educational or not, to entertain them and fill their days. Instead, they used their imagination to create inventions with recycled trash, build forts with whatever they could find, and cooperate with other kids to create games that could last for hours. 


“Go outside and come back when it’s dinner time” is what my parents would say nearly every afternoon when I was growing up. There were no scheduled playdates, meet ups at the park, or specific activities planned. If I wanted to go to the park, I would ride my bike or walk there. If I wanted a friend to come along, I would swing by their house on the way and knock on the door to see if they wanted to join me. My parents had only a vague idea where I was or who I was with and this was the norm. While many parents don’t feel quite as safe giving their child free reign, we can learn from this attitude. Kids do not need us to plan and intervene in their daily activities. Send them outside, have them go knock on a neighbor’s door and ask them to join them. Play in the sprinkler, ride bikes, draw with chalk, drink from the hose, learn to do cartwheels, jump rope, plant flowers, or simply sit in the sun. Go outside and don’t come in until dinner. 


Give your kids the gift of free time to play and try things on their own. Be selective about which camps you will register your children for and be intentional about allowing them to have time to create their own adventures.

Check the listing of high-quality local camps here.


Parents today have so much pressure to live up to unrealistic standards. We feel we must provide educational crafts, plan interesting and affordable outings, provide well-balanced extracurricular activities, all while cooking healthy, organic food, maintaining a clean house, a healthy marriage, and balance our careers. The truth is, none of us are able to keep up with it all. The 1980s parent, while balancing many of the career and family obligations we have today, did not put the type of pressure parents today place on themselves. This summer, take a break from the pressures of social media, enjoy your kids, join them outside, play a board game, have a movie night, lounge at the pool, eat a little junk food, and give yourself permission to let things go and accept you can’t realistically keep up with everything anyway.

The key to giving your kids, and yourself, a 1980’s summer is to unplug, enjoy, and ease up on the pressures we place on ourselves. Let’s just enjoy our kids and enjoy every unscheduled moment because, before you know it, it will be time to head back to school.